Richard Allen has three fundamental rules when it comes to cooking. Savour finds out more
When Richard Allen took up the reins at the five star Rockliffe Hall, the first thing he did was rearrange the kitchen. “As executive head chef I did not want my team telling me where everything is,” said the 40 year old who runs it with military precision.
“It was drilled into me at college to be smart and clean. From being clean you learn discipline, then you learn to respect your environment and if you’re proud of your environment then you’re going to be proud of what you put on a plate. A scruffy chef equals scruffy food,” said Richard.
Using regional produce – some foraged from Rockliffe Hall’s 365 acre estate – Richard takes visitors on a culinary journey that encompasses a range of temperatures, textures and tastes.
Dishes include scallops with white bean and clam cassoulet and a squid cracker; venison fillet served with casserole, celeriac, goji berry granola and chard; and apple black butter doughnut with Calvados mousse.
“I don’t like putting my style of food in a box. When people say they cook ‘modern British’, what’s that?
“I have three fundamental rules: if it’s good for you, looks good and tastes good, it’s my style of food,” said Richard.
Growing up in Dorset with three sisters and a brother, Richard says he was ‘always around food’ as his parents owned three bakeries.
But it wasn’t his first line of work. “I became a postman but after two weeks I got the sack,” admits Richard.
“Mum’s friend told her about a college course and that was that, I enrolled to do an NVQ in Food and Hospitality,” he added.
At the age of 24, he was head chef at the Stakis Hotel in Bournemouth. Richard then took many twists and turns within the industry – working with well-known names such as Martin Blunos, Cheong Liew and Michel Roux Junior – before becoming executive head chef at Tassili restaurant at the five-star Grand Jersey Hotel. It was here he gained a Michelin star.
“I tried too hard for too long to achieve one and it was the wrong thing to do,” said Richard. “For nine years, every September, I’d sit in front of the computer to see if I had a star and for nine years I was left devastated.
“The year I finally stopped doing that, and believed that my food was worthy, was the year we got the star. I screamed so loud that guests complained,” laughed Richard.
After his journey in Jersey finished, he was enticed to Rockliffe Hall by chief executive Eamonn Elliott.
“He told me about the place, so I thought, ‘why not give it a go?’,” said Richard, who’s moved to the North East with his wife, Leanne and their two sons, Lennon, seven, and Jackson, five.
So what does a talented chef like Richard feed his kids? “Chicken, ham, crisps, crackers and sweets, of course,” he laughed.
Having been at the helm of the kitchen for just over a year at Rockliffe, he has now settled in – and has his sights firmly set on making the venue “the best resort in the UK”.
“We would love to have a star here at Rockliffe. That would be amazing for me and the whole team,” he added.
Favourite dish to Savour in front of the TV?
Cheese and marmite on toast.
Favourite posh nosh?
A tasting menu at any Michelin restaurant.
What ingredient could you not live without?
Good quality chocolate.
Three guests you’d have at a dinner party (dead or alive) …
Legendary baker Anthony Peter Allen, Guy M aartin because he’s a Legend and the King (Elvis) for the entertainment.